Trees or shrubs, 5–6 m tall. Branchlets stellate-pubescent. Leaves on fertile branches with blade ovate, 2–3.5 × 1.5–2 cm, base rounded to shallowly cordate; leaves on sterile branches obovate-elliptic to elliptic, 5–9 × 3–4 cm, base rounded to cuneate; upper and lower leaf surfaces densely stellate-pubescent when young, becoming glabrous except for veins, margin serrate, apex acute to obtuse, secondary veins 5–7 pairs; petiole 1–4 mm. Inflorescences lax, 4–6-flowered, 4–5 cm long; pedicel c. 2 cm. Calyx c. 5 mm, densely greyish stellate-pubescent; teeth five or six, deltoid. Corolla lobes ovate-elliptic, c. 12 × 4 mm, apex acute. Filaments c. 4 mm, densely stellate-pubescent. Style c. 6 mm. Fruit ellipsoid-cylindrical including a long apical acuminate beak, 2–2.5 × 1–1.2 cm, narrowed toward base, with conspicuous lenticels (Hwang & Grimes 1996).
Distribution China North Guangdong, South Hunan, Jiangxi
Habitat Forest Thickets, 500–800 m asl.
USDA Hardiness Zone 6a-9b
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Conservation status Not evaluated (NE)
This is another member of the Styrax family that would do well as a garden plant. It is a relatively small, compact tree or large shrub with masses of white flowers in spring followed by good yellow autumn colour and fruit remaining on the tree through winter. Despite being regarded as fully hardy in the UK and US it does not appear to be common in cultivation. Kew has the largest specimen in the UK, an original introduction by Dr H. Hu from 1930 (Bean 1981). This plant was illustrated by Lillian Snelling in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (1936) [n.s., t. 466], when it flowered for the first time.
Specimens can also be seen at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Cambridge University Botanic Garden, the Arnold Arboretum, and Missouri Botanical Garden. Despite its relative obscurity in horticulture this species is available in the nursery trade in Europe and North America and is gradually becoming more widely planted. In their 2019 book Dirr & Warren call it ‘a sleeping giant’, speculating that once improved selections begin to appear in the trade it will enjoy a boom in popularity. They also note that the few specimens available to them to study indicate, thus far, that the species is relatively trouble free and obliging (Dirr & Warren 2019).